New School Year and Dusting Off the Blog

26 September 2021

 Hello.  Remember me?  I've been wanting to get back into blogging for a while now, but I guess it doesn't magically happen unless I actually write a post.

So, if I'm dusting off this blog, I should start at the beginning of the year with my back to school room tour.  

I started my 21st year of teaching in a straight 6 with 19 students ... a dream too good to be true ... and it was.  Two weeks later, I was reorganized into a 5/6 split with 25 students.  

I am still at the same wonderful school, but my classroom was newly constructed last year.  A bright, beautiful new space, but it still has all the nooks and crannies and slanted walls that make it just the perfect amount of quirky and fun.

Last year I started a cactus theme in my classroom because, truth be told, I was a little prickly about returning face to face in the middle of the pandemic.  I kept the cacti this year, and added in a few more plant pieces ... and plan on continuing to add throughout the year.  As you walk into my classroom, I have a few reminders and favourite quotes to start to set the tone.  All the plant stickers in the classroom are vinyl wall stickers I found on Amazon.

Our Wonder Calendar, a class photo from when the students were in JK/SK, and a real spider plant.  The hanging file folder now has Monday - Friday files, and that is where I place our extra handouts from the week for absent students.

On the wall are little sticky hexagon corkboards.  Perfect for quick notes, posting exit slips, or photos.  These were on Amazon, as well.

This side of my room has our World Map (again, a vinyl wall sticker from Amazon), my math bulletin board, and my science and math cubbies.  The labelled coloured drawers under the World Map contain all our community supplies in the classroom.

This is my beautiful reading shelf.  I keep some of my favourite small sets on novels on here, and my go-to picture book mentor texts, and a bit more inspiration because this book shelf just makes me happy.

The little cacti that line the window are artificial (but the other plants are real).  My students decorated the pots and will get to bring them home at the end of the year.  (I also have a crush on Einstein).

This is the front of my classroom.  Three big whiteboards.  The left one is used mainly for inclass work and notes.  The middle one is for the projector.  And the right one is used for our daily agenda, homework, and any other important daily notes and reminders.  

Underneath all the whiteboards is my classroom library.  I personally don't love the shelves on the floor like this because the students have to do a weird sit/shuffle thing to peruse the titles, but it works.  My books are mainly set up by genre (one genre per shelf), with a couple full shelves dedicated to one author.

This wall is our interactive writing and art portfolio.  Each student has their own spot, and all of their published writing and completed art pieces line this wall.  Each time a student finishes a new piece, it is pinned on top of the older pieces, creating a portfolio students can go through to see their growth.  At the end of the year, I bind all these pieces into a little book for them to take home.  (This pic was from when I only had 19 students, there are now 25 proud spots on the board.)  Below that space are more bookshelves for more of my classroom library.  (And I think I'm going to need even more room).

And lastly, at the very back of my classroom is the cutest little writing desk.  Our chromebooks sit back there, so this is the perfect quiet space for my students to use voice to text tech, or work on something quietly for a bit.  We have some more community supplies back there, as well.  The "wallpaper" on the wall is yet another vinyl wall sticker, and I purchased some matching stools.

For the finishing touch, on the first day of school, we made my Back to School Cactus Craftivity.  These line the top of my high bulletin board at the front of the room and will stay here all year - because I love them, and the bulletin board is too high to change frequently.  haha.

I love my little home away from home - it's bright, has neutral colours, plants to clean the air, and is just a happy place to be.  Building an environment my students feel comfortable and at-home in is my first step every year to start to build our caring classroom community.

Below you can find some of the resources I used in my classroom set-up that are available in my TpT store.  Click on any of them to take a closer look:

Interactive Math Mat Warm-Ups for Upper Grades

17 August 2020
Runde's Room:  Interactive Math Mats for Upper Grades
I started using math mats as a quick warm-up activity last year for metric conversions.  It was a HUGE hit for all of us in the class.  The amount of visualizing and processing that happened in a short amount of time was amazing, and my students loved the interactive nature of it.  I loved that it gave me a quick comprehension check, and I could easily take note of which students needed a little extra reinforcement, and which concepts could benefit from more teaching.

Runde's Room:  Interactive Math Mat Warm-Ups
I shared this math warm-up idea on my Instagram account in March last year.  I made up a "Which is Greater" and "Which is Less" page and then wrote down a variety of measurements on little flashcards I cut up.  I also gave each student a little card with A on one side and B on the other.  For a quick warm-up (or review at the end of the lesson), I projected the math mat under my document camera.  I had all the measurement cards shuffled together in a pile.  Randomly flip two cards, saying, "Which is Greater - A or B?"  Give a little wait time and then have students hold up their cards at the same time with the correct letter facing out so you can see (if they hold up their cards in front of their chest and not in the air, it helps to not "sway" other answers in the class).  
We used this warm-up at the beginning of every class during our measurement unit with great success ... and then ... COVID.  lol.  So ... when I started to plan for this year (returning face to face in September ... have a wee bit of nervous energy to burn), I knew I wanted to create a set of math mats for place value, as well.

Runde's Room:  Interactive Math Mat Warm-Up Activities

These new Interactive Math Mat Resources can be used as math warm-ups or reviews, with a small group in a guided math lesson, or as a math station.  In these resources, I have included 6 different math mats to compare and order quantities, A/B and True/False answer cards for the students, and a huge quantity of number cards already prepped for you.  Just print and cut.  (I store these cards in a plastic baggie and use a binder clip to clip the bag to the math mats, which I laminate).  I have also included entrance and exit slips for all of the concepts covered in the resources so you can track students' progress at the beginning at end of the unit or mini-unit.

These math mat resources also come in a digital/printable combo version, if you're returning virtually this fall.  The digital resource contains a variety of math mats and interactive number cards so students can drag the cards over to complete the inequality statements.

Runde's Room:  Digital Math Mat Activities

You can take a peek at my newest Math Mat Resources HERE, or click on the pictures of the individual resources below.

Runde's Room:  Place Value Interactive Math Mats
The Place Value Math Mat Resource contains a set of number cards for decimals and whole numbers (from the thousandths to the millions).  Both sets contain a variety of numbers in standard, written, and expanded form.  

Runde's Room:  Metric Conversion Interactive Math Mats
The Metric Units Math Mat Resource contains three sets of quantity cards - for length, capacity and mass.  Metric prefixes include:  mm, cm, dm, m, km, mg, g, kg, mL, L, and kL.  
The Fraction Math Mat Resource contains mats for two different fraction skills:  Comparing Fractions and Operations with Fractions.  Fraction cards are in picture, number, and word form.

SNOW Many Angles

25 January 2020
Have some hands-on fun teaching angles with this snowflake activity.  While making this super cute snowflake, students will create and measure intersecting lines, acute, right, obtuse, and straight angles, and angle bisectors.

For this activity, students will need 9 popsicle sticks and glue.  (We used white glue for this activity, but glue guns would be great, as well). 

  • First, students glue together 3 popsicle sticks to make six 60 degree angles.  
  • They then break the 6 remaining popsicle sticks in half.  (We snapped them in half, then used scissors to clean up the edges.  Exacto knives would work, as well).  
  • Glue two halves together to make a 90 degree angle, and repeat until 6 right angles have been made.
  • Glue each right angle to the end of one of the intersecting lines, so that it bisects the right angle.
  • Paint and glitter are optional ... but what's a snowflake without a little sparkle?  ;) 

You can grab a freebie of these instructions for your students, including an assessment checklist that students can use for self-assessment, or quickly conference with each student to complete the checklist together for a formal assessment.  Get a copy of my SNOW Many Angles activity by clicking HERE or on the pictures.  SNOW many angles ... snow much learning!

New Christmas Drama Circle Activities

30 November 2019
The month of December always brings out the excitement in my students, and for me, one of the best ways to take advantage of that excitement and energy is to pull out the drama circles and let them perform!  Drama circles aren't just for drama though, they are also perfect for engaging in morning meetings, oral reading activities, reading with fluency and expression, following instructions, listening, cooperative learning, and risk taking ... all bundled into a fun activity that always has my students asking to do the activity again.  With December just around the corner, I have created two brand new Christmas Drama Circle activities - 'Twas The Night Before Christmas and Santa's Workshop - that will be so much fun in the upper elementary classroom!

Christmas Drama Activities for Upper Elementary
Drama Circles are similar to the "I Have / Who Has" game.  Each drama circle contains 40 cards that follow in a sequence, with each card having a different instruction to act out or say aloud. Students assemble in a circle to perform their scenarios. Cards are passed out randomly, and students can have more than one card (so all cards are used).  As each student finishes acting out his or her card, the student with the next card in the sequence starts acting out his or her card. The game continues until the last card is acted out. 

One of my new drama circles, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, could also be used for a Christmas play or Christmas concert idea.  The format of this drama activity is slightly different - cards alternate between a "narrator card" and an "audience card".  The classic poem is read by the narrators, with the audience (students with audience cards) interrupting and interacting after every few lines.  Narrators could be standing together, with a seated audience scattered around them.

My newest drama circles also contain black and white versions of the drama circle for an ink-saving option, as well as an assessment tracking page to observe and grade your students' performances.
Christmas Drama Activities for Upper Elementary

You can take a peek at these Christmas activities individually, or check them out in a Christmas and Winter-themed Drama Circle bundle featuring 6 different drama circles perfect for the month of December and beyond.  This bundle contains:

  • Christmas Drama Circle
  • Twas the Night Before Christmas Drama Circle
  • Snow Day Drama Circle
  • A Christmas Carol Drama Circle
  • Santa's Workshop Drama Circle
  • Winter Drama Circle

If you're new to drama circles and would like to give them a try for the first time, please give my FREE Fairy Tale Drama Circle a try.  Download it HERE.  Enjoy!

Numberless Word Problems

09 August 2019
I started using Numberless Word Problems in my math classes late last year, and immediately, I was hooked.  I loved how it made my students look at work problems in a different way - they really had to think about what the problem was asking ... and develop a plan to solve it - without being distracted by the actual numbers in the problem, or just taking the numbers in the problem and adding or multiplying them together.  The conversations that were happening between my students were fascinating - they were far more willing to take risks with their partners or small groups because the numbers were eliminated at first - students weren't worried about their math skills, or getting the "answer" wrong.  Engagement was definitely high and students were eager to share what strategies they used to "solve" the numberless problems.

Runde's Room:  Numberless Word Problems

Runde's Room:  Numberless Word Problems
Numberless word problems are an excellent way to get your students thinking about WHAT the word problem is actually asking them to do and developing strategies for solving the problem.  Using these kinds of word problems provides the essential scaffolding that helps students develop a stronger understanding of how the numbers work together and how to make a plan to solve the problem.

 I would use these problems as a mini-ish lesson (takes a little longer than the 10 minute lesson) when beginning a particular concept (operations, measurement, fractions, etc.), when teaching a problem-solving strategy (using smaller numbers, simpler problem, identifying the operation, etc.), or when practicing algorithms or strategies for multiplication and division. These are great for differentiation when practicing these strategies because students are working with "their own" numbers for the first problems; encourage students to use numbers that are reasonable, but that they are comfortable working with.

Runde's Room:  Numberless Word Problems
I would do these activities as a whole class - projecting the problems so everyone could see.  I would display the first slide - a chosen problem with all numbers removed like the example on the right.  You can make up a problem or use any word problem you have that fits your learning goal for numberless word problems (grab a textbook or worksheet) - just remove the numbers - and make sure you separate the problems (don't have all 3 on one page - students shouldn't see the third problem until the very end). 

After I displayed the slide I would them let my students talk (or use whiteboards or their journals) with their elbow buddy or small group, asking: 

  • "What do you know about the problem?" (here I would look for answers like numbers are increasing per day)
  • "What do you need to know?" (what are the points? is there a pattern? how many points on Thursday?)
  • "What is a possible solution?" (here I ask the students to try to come up with an equation related to the learning goal (in this case - adding and subtracting large numbers) using their own set of reasonable numbers - they may come up with something like 100 + 200 + 300 + _____ + 500 = 1500, or 250 + 300 = 500, or something completely different.)  At this point I ask students to share some of their equations with the class and we discuss if the answer makes sense and if it is reasonable. This is a great time to check for misconceptions, too - make sure students understand the importance of the word increasing ... and that we are looking for a specific answer for a specific day.
Runde's Room:  Numberless Word Problems
I would then show the second problem - same problem, same question, with some information added to it.  This time students discuss:
  • "What changed in the problem?"  "Does this change your equation?"  How?" 
  • By asking them again, "What do you need to know?" they narrow down what information is still missing and realize that the actual question they need to solve did not change, but HOW they go about solving the problem may change - they may need to change their equation (here I would look for students realizing this was a multi-step problem - that they would probably have to add points together and subtract from the total to find Thursday - reminding students of the learning goal while they work through these questions often helps them with choosing the correct steps).
  • Students work with their partners to change their original equation (either by substituting in the new information for their number and re-evaluating, or by using a new equation altogether.  Again, students are asked to share how their thinking evolved or what made them change their thinking.
Runde's Room:  Numberless Word Problems
The third problem I show has all the information they need to solve the problem.  But instead of having students work with their partner or small group, I have them work independently for the first few minutes ... then I usually allow them to partner up - making sure they "prove" their solution to each other.  That independent part is important to help them become risk-takers and attempt difficult things and use their problem-solving strategies and make a plan to start ... and all those great things we want them to do when working independently. I choose one or two pairs or groups to share their work at the end and model how they solved the problem.   

Runde's Room:  Numberless Word Problems
Runde's Room:  Numberless Word ProblemsI've been making some Numberless Word Problem resources to use in my classroom.  Each resource contains 10 different scaffolded problems, plus an extra "challenge" page that has 3 - 4 more word problems (not numberless) that review other math concepts related to the word problem.  There are also problem-solving templates, learning goal and success criteria to display, and an answer key.  Each resource also contains a self-reflection form, as well as peer and teacher feedback forms for formative assessment opportunities, and a rubric for more formal assessments.  Having students actively use the feedback forms to make improvements on their next problems by explaining how they used the feedback on their self-reflection forms makes these word problems an excellent portfolio piece or piece of assessment evidence.

You can take a peek at these resources by clicking HERE: